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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Tuesday Top 10: Frankenstein Monster Spoofs

* This one's for Pierre Fournier, the true master of Frankensteinia*

There's something about Frankenstein's Monster which has made him--with the possible exception of Count Dracula--the single most iconic figure in the history of horror. His likeness, particularly that created for his Universal movie incarnation, is etched into the annals of pop culture, right alongside things like Coca-Cola, Elvis and Superman. And as such a pop culture fixture, he has also been endlessly parodied and spoofed. And so, here this week I bring you my ten personal favorites of the more frivolous incarnations of Frank...

10. The Monster Squad
It says a lot for the charisma of the character that he was the only one of the classic monsters in this cult fave who was depicted as a good guy. As a kid, I loved how the little girl taught him how to call people "wussies". I also wondered if any parents knew the origin of that term...

9. The Frankenstein Mobster
Leave it to Image to bring us this ingenious and fascinating comic by Mark Wheatley, about a slain detective reanimated by the mob. A bizarre combination of horror and noir that is actually a bit heavier and more serious than its eye-catchingly goofy title would indicate.

8. Milton Monster
One of the very first cartoon take-offs on the Frankenstein Monster, although he is given a different identity, and never specifically described as such. A rare gem from the 1960s that is still beloved by the so-called "monster kids" who grew up with it.

7. Frankie
Saturday morning cartoons gave us two shows about a superhero team of Universal monsters--there was Groovy Ghoulies in the '70s, and Drak Pak in the '80s. Both had a character named "Frankie". I'm leaning towards Groovy Ghoulies here, only because they did it first.

6. Frankenhooker
"If you see only one movie this year, make it Frankenhooker." I can still remember that assuredlty tongue-in-cheek endorsement from Bill Murray on the VHS box. Without a doubt, one of the most off-the-wall riffs on Mary Shelley's classic ever attempted...

5. Frankenstein Jr.
I was a big fan of this giant flying robot as a kid. Hanna-Barbara really hit on something with all these adventure shows aimed at little kids featuring a goofy creature teamed up with a young boy. I so wanted to be this guy's human sidekick. Too bad you don't really see this toon anymore.

4. Frankenweenie
Disney likes to pretend now that they were all hip to the jive, but don't let them fool you. They canned a young Tim Burton after the budding mastermind created this debut short subject for them, about a little boy who reanimates his dead pooch. Brilliant and charming.

3. Frankenberry
When you get turned into a breakfast food, that's when you know you're a true cultural icon. Coolest. Cereal. Ever. Screw Count Chocula--right in his pointy ear.

2. Young Frankenstein
Among the very elite of all-time horror parodies, thanks in large part to Peter Boyle's excellent comedic portrayal of the Monster. From the cabin scene to "Puttin' on the Ritz", this is an incarnation that's almost as iconic as that of the original.

1. Herman Munster
It was a tough call between #1 and #2, but I went with Herman in the end. Although YF is a much funnier and better spoof overall, the actual character of Herman is even more transcendent as a perfect pop culture distillation of a timeless cultural symbol. Herman Munster is the physical embodiment of what happened to the classic movie monster tradition when it passed from the terrifying to the campy during the post-war years. It's amazing to think that Shelley's creation, and that Karloff's brutal beast, were eventually transformed into this.


J-Rock said...

Franken Berry HELLZ YEAH!!! Whenever I see this rare treat, I snap up four boxes!

And I agree that Count Chocula sucks.

le0pard13 said...

Kudos for the Young Frankenstein mention. My all-time favorite Mel Brooks film. Thanks.

B-Sol said...

I would also be remiss, as one follower on Twitter pointed out, if I failed to mention Phil Hartman and his hysterical portrayal of the Monster on Saturday Night Live in the late '80s and early '90s.

Anonymous said...

I caught an episode of Frankenstein Jr. on Boomerang just the other day. I can't believe I never even knew this show existed before that!


Samuel Wilson said...

Hey, wasn't there also a live-action Saturday morning show with the three canonical monsters as some kind of crime-fighting team back in the 1970s. I believe it was called The Monster Squad, that being no relation to the 1980s movie. I'm not saying it was any good, but it was there. Anyway, Herman Munster rightly reigns atop your list; he's one of my all-time favorite TV characters.

B-Sol said...

Frankenstein Jr. was a cool little kid's cartoon. And I have heard of that Monster Squad TV series, although I never got to see it.

Pierre Fournier said...

An excellent list, and thank you very much for the dedication!

Anonymous said...

I loved the Monster Squad movie :)

B-Sol said...

My pleasure, Pierre!

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